Traffic through the port of Bilbao showed positive results in the month of June, with an increase of close to 15% representing a recovery of almost 350,000 tonnes. Despite this, and given the poor performance of the first five months of the year, the first half of 2021 still shows a negative result, with an accumulated loss of 1.1 million tonnes and down 6.6% on the same period of the previous year.
The explanation for this decline can be found, above all, in bulk liquids (-1.2 million tonnes), and specifically in the import of crude oil and gas. Conversely, dry cargo has recovered its pre-pandemic level of traffic, increasing by more than 100,000 tonnes. Bulk solids show an increase of 14.5%, and roll-on/roll-off cargo has seen a growth of 8% due to the increase in unaccompanied semi-trailer traffic as a result of Brexit, which has led shipowners to reinforce their lines with Ireland and the United Kingdom.
In view of these results, a significant recovery in traffic is expected in the second half of the year for three key reasons:
- The biggest drop in traffic came in the last quarter of 2020, when traffic was almost halved as a result of the pandemic and the effects of the stevedores’ strike.
- A highly positive trend can be observed in dry cargo, especially in the last two months, exceeding the traffic of the first six months of last year.
- As for liquid bulks, the Petronor refinery plans to end its ERTE (temporary lay-off agreement) shortly and start production on the two refinery lines at the end of the summer. Likewise, the demand for gas is expected to increase, with Bahía Bizkaia Gas (BBG) reaching 3.4 million tonnes.
With respect to markets, traffic with Russia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Spain, United States and the Netherlands is to be highlighted.
The number of vessels is at the same levels as in June 2020, whilst figures for ferry line passengers have fallen 55% in the first half of the year as a result of pandemic restrictions.
Brittany Ferries has this week restored normal service with the resumption of the Portsmouth ferry, which is expected to significantly improve these figures from now on. As far as cruise ships are concerned, the first one after the start of the pandemic is expected to dock during the summer.
Turnover and financial data
Turnover amounted to EUR 31.3 million, compared to EUR 32.3 million in 2020, a decrease of 3.2%. This fall of EUR 1 million is attributable to the lower volume of port traffic. The economic upturn will mostly be seen in the second half of 2021, and monthly figures are already showing clear signs of recovery.
Net bank debt at half-year end stood at EUR 11.2 million, 0.35 times EBITDA. In the first half of the 2021 financial year, a further EUR 10 million of debt with the European Investment Bank was repaid early. The Port Authority therefore maintains a debt profile close to zero and, thanks to its financial and management autonomy, is deploying its own resources to develop the port’s infrastructures.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the first half of the year amounted to EUR 15.8 million.
With regard to subsidies or grants secured for the port of Bilbao, mention must be made of the following:
- The Port Authority has received EUR 4.1 million from the European Commission under the 2015 Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) grants programme, for the first phase of the Central Breakwater.
- Confirmed funding under the Resilience and Recovery Facility for the following projects focusing on environmental sustainability for a total amount of EUR 12.6 million:
- Drainage network in the Outer Abra, Phases I and II: EUR 7,582,000.
- Power supply to vessels at the A-5 Quay of the Central Breakwater (cold-ironing): EUR 4,340,000.
- Project for the reform of the facilities of the Integrated Protection and Emergency Centre building: EUR 556,000.
- Supply and installation of electric vehicle charging points: EUR 86.000.
- Supply and installation of efficient LED lighting in the ZAD-2 (storage and distribution area): EUR 72,000.
- To develop an innovation ecosystem in the port of Bilbao, the first grants for start-ups and entrepreneurs have been obtained through Bilbao PortLab: six grants of EUR 15,000 corresponding to the ideas category of the Ports 4.0 Fund, and two grants of EUR 60,000 for projects submitted to Galatea, in collaboration with the Basque Country Mobility and Logistics Cluster.
- With regard to rail transport, ADIF has secured funding under the Recovery and Resilience Facility for rail-port terminals of special interest to the port of Bilbao.
EUR 51.5 million for new and improved infrastructure
Planned investment by the Port Authority in 2021 stands at EUR 51.5 million. The main works are as follows:
- Extension of Dock AZ1, creating 50,000 m² of new surface area and a wharf of 251 linear metres. The works, scheduled for completion in early 2023, were awarded in June to a temporary joint venture of Rover Maritime, Murias and Ciomar for a total of around EUR 27.4 million, and are due to begin in September, with an 18-month completion date.
- Development works (201,399 m²) of the first phase of the Central Breakwater. The works, currently 35% finished, have a total budget of EUR 8.5 million and are scheduled for completion in the autumn.
In April, the Port Authority awarded Consignaciones Toro y Betolaza 70,150 m² of this first phase. The company will thus expand its terminal for conventional and ro-ro cargo at Quay A6, which was inaugurated in May 2018 and has nearly 110,000 m² of surface area. It will invest close to EUR 5 million in the new area and will build a 21,600 m² warehouse.
- New road access to ZAD 2. These works, awarded for EUR 4.2 million, began in February and are due for completion at the end of the year. The new access is designed to lighten the existing traffic congestion at the Kalero control gate, enabling direct and separate access from the inner port road.
- An Emergency Quay, sheltered by the Punta Sollana dock, for the berthing of vessels with some kind of restriction for their docking at a commercial quay, such as mechanical breakdowns or similar, which prevent safe passage. The works, awarded for EUR 1.17 million, began in March and will be completed by the end of the year.
- Filling works on the left bank of the Deusto Canal. This project, the result of an innovative inter-institutional agreement, was completed in June after 22 months of work and an investment of around EUR 20 million. The works have created an area of some 50,000 m² in the public port domain and will be used for urban development on the Island of Zorrotzaurre.